North Indian Muslims fight back with optimism

As Secular forces being limited by their size, what’s the way ahead for the Muslims of India?

North Indian Muslims fight back with optimism

Saiyed Zegham Murtaza

Did the recent Uttar Pradesh election results have left a depressing effect on the Muslims, is the question being asked these days. With secular forces failing to resist the right wing agenda, more and more people are losing hope in their capability to revive against the dominant BJP. Is this an end of road for secular politics or something left to reclaim in the present circumstances?

Have the results of the recent Uttar Pradesh elections pushed Muslims into a dark hole? Is this the end of secularism in India?

As these questions are being asked frequently of late, there is both a fightback and refusal to surrender to communal forces in the country.

Amid some loss of hope in the ability of the secular forces to push back against the right wing agenda in the country, there is also resistance to the doomsaying of certain political strategists who are ringing the death knell of secularism and stating that it is the end of the road for Muslims in the country. But Muslims are not giving up and are all set to reclaim their space in society, albeit through a shift in tactics and some stern measures to change the perceptions of their community.

With the results of the recently concluded elections in the five states, the RSS-backed Hindutva party now rules 17 out of 29 states and seven union territories, directly or indirectly. In terms of territory the figure is almost 44 percent and in terms of population, it rules over around 50 percent of the people. With almost half of India under its rule and the government at the center, BJP is now a big force to reckon with. But if the BJP is to be replaced at Centre in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in 2024, it is not just the responsibility of Muslims to do so – all opposition parties will have to redraw their strategies to overcome the loss in Uttar Pradesh and combat the saffron party at the Centre. They cannot allow the UP results to fishearten them forever – Muslims consolidated against right wing forces, both Hindu and Muslim, at these elections but it is now for the secular opposition to come together and save the future. For it cannot be right for people to accept the dominance of the political right wing in all the spaces.

As Dr Mohammad Sajjad, professor of history at the Aligarh Muslim University says, “ The antidote to communalism can never be communalism. We have to have to go back to the path shown by Gandhi, Nehru, and Azad. Muslims in India should identify those propagating fear among them and weed out the right wingers who thrive on instigating fear among the people . Support only those who stand for peace and the idea of India.”

According to Javed Ali Khan of the Samajwadi Party, an electoral victory or loss doesn’t matter. Rather Muslims should learn to read between the lines, expose the agendas of people weakening their rights as citizens and keep on strengthening the forces fighting for their cause.

Dr. Naseem Ashraf, former president of AMU Students Union echoes Khan when he says the nation is not about an election or two.

The upside of the results is that Muslims have not only rooted for secular politics but also denied the likes of Owaisis. “It is evident that they can bring change if they decide to vote in a single direction.”

Amir Imam, an author and a poet from UP’s Sambhal cautions Muslims against falling prey to the fears raised by right wingers and warns them against ceding even an inch of space that defines their rights. “We shouldn’t forget that the opposition has constantly failed to stick to its ideology. It’s not the responsibility of the Muslims alone to fight communalism.”

There is also optimism among the youth in these dark times. “Yes, these are tough times, but should we sit back and accept the present situation as our fate?”, asks Fida Ali, a young lad from Srinagar. “We should continue striving for a better life, whatever may be the conditions. These are phases and times keep on changing.”

Irfan Malik, a lawyer from Dindori in Madhya Pradesh says it is not a very good place for Muslims politically but “our youth has shown that they can grow despite hardships. You will see, our children will have a better IQ level and better life some years later.”

Despite being politically sidelined, socially humiliated, aggrieved by the policies of the state, and neglected by the system, most Muslims thus continue to be optimistic and still see rays of hope.

Amir Hussain living in Faridabad sums up the mood of the minorities. “Yes the system, the government, and most of the people are against us, but this doesn’t mean that there is no hope for revival. We will continue to resist communalism and will surely reclaim our lost space, even if it takes a while.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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